Thursday, November 20, 2014

Iran nuclear deal


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ibn Warraq speaks at Yale


Editor’s note: The renowned scholar of Islam recently spoke at Yale. Here is an outline of the talk he gave. — RS)
First, I should like to thank The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale for inviting me. I should also like to thank my friends and colleagues whose ideas have profoundly influenced what I am going to say today: Sebastian Gorka, Katherine Gorka, Robert Reilly, and Hugh Fitzgerald.
James Burnham’s book Suicide of the West is full of insights on US Foreign Policy, which I find relevant to this day. In fact one has only to substitute “Islam” for “communism” in many of his observations to realise their continuing pertinence. I shall limit myself to one of his observations from Chapter XII, Dialectic of Liberalism:
“The communists divide the world into “the zone of peace” and “the zone of war”. The zone of peace means the region that is already subject to communist rule; and the label signifies that within their region the communists will not permit any political tendency, violent or non-violent, whether purely internal or assisted from without, to challenge their rule. The “zone of war” is the region where communist rule is not yet, but in due course will be established; and within the zone of war the communists promote, assist and where possible lead political tendencies, violent or non-violent, democratic or revolutionary, that operate against non-communist rule. Clear enough, these definitions. You smash the Hungarian Freedom Fighters, and support Fidel Castro; you know where you are going.” Pp.227-228. The above could easily have been a dictionary definition of the Islamic doctrine of Jihad, and its notions of “Dar al-Islam” –the Zone of Peace, and Dar-al Harb –Zone of War”
Now onto my main points:
Our foreign policy should be guided by understanding and admitting the following realities:

  1. We are engaged in a war of ideas, with our principal enemy: an ideology.
An ideology that will not collapse out of economic incompetence.
  1. The ideology of the terrorists is religiously based and derived from Islam and its founding texts, the Koran, hadith, and the sunna, and the history of the early caliphate.
  2. One, but not the only, way we know this is because they tell us so. First , if you want to understand the enemy “Read what they say”. They constantly justify their acts with accurate and apt citations from the Koran and Hadith. They also refer to, among others, Sayyid Qutb’s work Milestones, Abdullah Azzam’s Defense of the Muslim Lands, S. K. Malik’s The Quranic Concept of Power, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner. Some of the latter have doctorates from recognized Islamic universities, and to hear John Kerry trying to tell them their ideas have nothing to do with Islam is comical.
  3. Islamic terrorism is not caused by “poverty, lack of education, sexual deprivation, psychological problems, or lack of economic opportunity..”, Western Imperialism, or Western decadence, or the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  4. There are two kinds of Jihad: terrorism, and slow penetration of Western institutions subverting Western laws and customs from within.
  5. Ignorance, naivety, arrogance, political correctness , sheer laziness, sentimentality, and Saudi, Qatari and Iranian money have led to Islamist successes in penetrating Western institutions, from the Voice of America, The Pentagon, CIA, FBI, DHS, PBS, to the universities and colleges where Islamic propaganda is shamelessly and openly disseminated.
  6. While groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, and others are non-state actors, they are funded by states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. These three countries, for example, also provide the necessary Islamic support, framework, and propaganda that spews forth anti-Western and and anti-American hatred. They should be warned or face the consequences.
  7. It is also important to point out that it is not something we have done that is impelling the Islamists. Constantly apologising, Mr President, is pointless; they will not like or respect you the more.
  8. We must learn the lessons of the cold war, for there are striking similarities between the Islamist ideology and that of Soviet Russia [Cf B.Russell, Jules Monnerot, Maxime Rodinson]
  9. Speak out in support of the Christians who are being persecuted, and being killed almost every day in Islamic countries. Profound importance of this act of solidarity not realised by many in West.
  10. In order to succeed we need urgently to recover our civilizational self-confidence.
  11. One way we can fight jihadist ideology is to undermine their certainties, and one can accomplish this with Koranic Criticism. In the West, Spinoza hastened the Enlightenment by his Biblical Criticism.
There is an obvious need to understand the Islamic ideology to understand the mindset of the Islamic terrorists. Terrorism is not caused by poverty, and so on. It is their ideology that motivates them and is the source of its moral legitimacy. Without it, terrorism cannot exist.Terrorists are produced by a totalitarian ideology justifying terrorism.
While America has had some impressive tactical successes, and has managed to kill Osama bin Laden (May 2011) and Anwar al-Awlaki (in Sept.2011) it still fails to understand their goals, their ideology. The reasons for this failure are many:
First, there is a reluctance to address the religious inspiration of the acts of terrorism,to admit that their ideology is derived from Islam and its founding texts, the Koran, the Hadith, the Sunna and the early history of the Caliphate. Instead, the present administration exhorts us to use euphemisms such as “violent extremist”. “WhereasThe 9/11 Commission Report, published under the presidency of George W. Bush in July 2004 as a bipartisan product, had used the word Islam 322 times, Muslim 145 times, jihad 126 times, and jihadist 32 times,The National Intelligence Strategy of the United States, issued by the Obama administration in August 2009, used the term Islam 0 times, Muslim 0 times, jihad 0 times.” Now Obama’s policy applies to internal government documents as well, which can only have disastrous consequences for our understanding of political groups and events in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South and South East Asia. “How can one possibly analyze the power and appeal of this ideology, the way that ideas set its strategy and tactics, why it is such a huge menace if any reference to the Islamic religion and its texts or doctrines isn’t permitted?”
Perhaps it was only in 1946, when George Kennan’s wrote his classified ‘Long Telegram’ that America began to understand the nature of the Soviet Union, why it acted the way it did, how the Kremlin thought, and why the USSR was a grave threat to America. In other words it took three decades to understand the mind of the enemy.
To complicate matters further, today there are two enemies: first, non-European, religiously informed non-state terrorist groups, like ISIS. Second, and equally dangerous, states that, in fact, fund and support them. There is evidence that, as the The Atlantic reported in June, 2014, “Two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And their success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”
Our ability to fight al Qaeda and similar transnational terrorist actors will depend upon our capacity to communicate to our own citizens and to the world what it is we are fighting for and what it is that the ideology of Jihad threatens in terms of the values we hold so dear.
To quote Sun Tsu, in war it is not enough to know the enemy in order to win. One must first know oneself. However, with the end of the Cold War America and the West understandably lost clarity with regard to what it was about its way of life that was precious and worth fighting for.
James Burnham explains with exemplary clarity the reasons for this loss of self-confidence, and what he wrote is still, mutatis mutandis, relevant:
“Judging a group of human beings- a race, nation, class or party- that he considers to possess less than their due of well-being and liberty, the liberal is hard put to it to condemn that group morally for acts that he would not hesitate to condemn in his fellows.
“When the Western liberal’s feeling of guilt and his associated feeling of moral vulnerability before the sorrows and demands of the wretched become obsessive, he often develops a generalized hatred of Western civilization and of his own country as a part of the West. We can frequently sense this hatred in …[journals like] The Nation.”
In order to succeed we need urgently recover our civilizational self-confidence.
Ronald Reagan was able to succeed because he was supremely confident of the moral and spiritual superiority of his cause. He was thus able to state with certainty and without hesitation that the SovietEmpire was evil. He was not afraid to confront reality. He was able to defend our values because he believed in them totally. He told an audience at Moscow State University, “Go into any schoolroom [in America], and there you will see children being taught the Declaration of Independence, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights-among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-that no government can justly deny….”
John Lenczowski describes what Reagan advocated unapologetically, “Altogether, the various ideas of freedom, democracy, human rights, moral order, and the dignity of the human person were promoted not only by the President’s rhetoric and personal moral witness but by the Administration as a whole in numerous forms: in Voice of America editorials, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty broadcasts, in articles in United States Information Agency-published magazines targeted at Soviet-bloc populations, on the USIA-run billboard on the sidewalk outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow, in American diplomats’ addresses at various international fora, in the distribution of books to Soviet bloc audiences and U.S.libraries abroad, in films distributed abroad, and so on.”
To quote Asian columnist Banyan in the Economist,“For all its flaws and mis-steps, [America] represents not just economic and military might, but an ideal to aspire to, in a way that China does not. And when American leaders appear to give less weight to that ideal, they not only diminish America’s attractions, they also lend more credence to the idea of its relative economic and military decline.”
The rest of the world recognizes the virtues of the West. As Arthur Schlesinger remarked, “when Chinese students cried and died for democracy in Tiananmen Square, they brought with them not representations of Confucius or Buddha but a model of the Statue of Liberty.”
Ibn Warraq is the author of Why I Am Not A MuslimDefending the West, and many other books. His latest is Christmas in the Koran.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Obama Against the Obvious

With Russian tanks and troops swarming into Ukraine, the president finally sees the light

Nov. 17, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

As headlines go, “ Obama Moves Close to Calling Russian Action in Ukraine an Invasion,” from a weekend story in the New York Times , must surely rank among the year’s most revealing. The Obama presidency has long been at odds with the obvious. Once this was called hope.
Now it is generally recognized as farce.
Mr. Obama’s move comes after eight months of semantic obfuscation conducted in the service of political expediency. “I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now,” Mr. Obama palavered in late August, as columns of Russian tanks moved into eastern Ukraine. And what, exactly, had been “taking place for months”?
It was, he said, “this ongoing incursion,” as if the Russian seizure of Crimea was just a temporary problem. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki helpfully explained why “a discussion about terminology” was all but beneath administration notice. “Our focus is more on what Russia is doing, what we’re going to do about it, than what we’re calling it,” she said.
Now the president is toughening his tone. Speaking to reporters in Australia on Sunday, Mr. Obama deployed the “i” word with the same delicacy an Orthodox Jew might use to spell “G-d.” “We’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles, and one of those principles is you don’t invade other countries.”
That’s nice. The only pity is that the statement came days after NATO confirmed that Russia was pouring “multiple columns” of tanks and troops into Ukraine, thereby violating a September cease-fire agreement. If Ms. Psaki can now explain what the administration’s previous rhetorical cartwheels accomplished, it would be good to hear it—other, that is, than to convince the Kremlin that an American president too timid to call an invasion an invasion is no serious impediment to Russia’s territorial ambitions.
While Ms. Psaki and other administration mouthpieces are at it, they might also explain how last week’s news that the Pentagon will send another 1,500 “military advisers” to Iraq honors Mr. Obama’s pledge from September, when he said, “I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”
Yet the Apache pilots and their crews emphatically do have a “combat mission” when they fly out of Baghdad airport to keep ISIS from storming the city, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in September that U.S. military forces deployed to Iraq will get combat pay.
One wonders what rhetorical legerdemain the administration will use to explain what those pilots are doing there. Demonstrating the principles of aeronautics? Teaching kinetics?
And so it goes in the administration’s uncomfortable relationship with la vérité, of both the observable and predictable kind.

Observable: Iranian behavior has in no way moderated under its “moderate” president, Hasan Rouhani, whose government continues to hang convicts at a breakneck rate, make arms deliveries to Hamas in Gaza, prop up the Assad regime in Syria and tweet instructions for eliminating Israel. Predictable: An Iran that has cheated on its previous nuclear undertakings will cheat on its future ones.

Observable: Detainees released from Guantanamo return home to wage jihad and kill Americans. Case in point: Abdullah Gulam Rasoul, once Prisoner 8 at Gitmo, who returned to Afghanistan to become the Taliban’s chief military commander. Predictable: The five detainees released to Qatar earlier this year in exchange for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will trace the same route.

Observable: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, anointed by Mr. Obama as his Mideast BFF, is an Islamic supremacist (his latest claim is that Muslim sailors discovered America in 1178 and that Columbus found a mosque in Cuba) who plays by democratic rules only when they suit him. Predictable: The U.S.-Turkish alliance, formed after World War II, will not survive the decade.

Readers will no doubt think of additional examples: promises about health insurance; the stimulus “multiplier”; you name it.
The larger question is why the administration is in constant flight from reality. Perhaps it’s Mr. Obama’s conceit that speeches are an adequate substitute for policy. Or maybe it’s the postmodern view that the purpose of words isn’t so much to describe facts as it is to invent them. It is what happens when a political career, and a presidency, is spent in the relentless pursuit of spinning the news its way, looking no further than the day ahead.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, immortally, that he had a dream. President Obama is merely in one.
Obama’s dream may any day become our collective Iran created nuclear nightmare, and  the only one there to prevent it is  Israel. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

First Victims of the Stuxnet Worm Revealed, Kaspersky Lab Reports

Woburn, MA – November 11, 2014 – Kaspersky Lab today announced that after analyzing more than 2,000 Stuxnet files collected over a two-year period, it can identify the first victims of the Stuxnet worm. After Stuxnet was discovered over four years ago as one of the most sophisticated and dangerous malicious programs, Kaspersky Lab researchers can now provide insight into the question: what were the goals of the Stuxnet operation?
Initially security researchers had no doubt that the whole attack had a targeted nature. The code of the Stuxnet worm looked professional and exclusive; there was evidence that extremely expensive zero-day vulnerabilities were used. However, it wasn’t yet known what kind of organizations were attacked first and how the malware ultimately made it right through to the uranium enrichment centrifuges in the particular top secret facilities.
Kaspersky Lab analysis sheds light on these questions. All five of the organizations that were initially attacked are working in the ICS area in Iran, developing ICS or supplying materials and parts. One of the more intriguing organizations was the one attacked fifth, since among other products for industrial automation, it produces uranium enrichment centrifuges. This is precisely the kind of equipment that is believed to be the main target of Stuxnet.
Apparently, the attackers expected that these organizations would exchange data with their clients – such as uranium enrichment facilities – and this would make it possible to get the malware inside these target facilities. The outcome suggests that the plan was indeed successful.  
“Analyzing the professional activities of the first organizations to fall victim to Stuxnet gives us a better understanding of how the whole operation was planned. At the end of the day this is an example of a supply-chain attack vector, where the malware is delivered to the target organization indirectly via networks of partners that the target organization may work with,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert, Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky Lab experts made another interesting discovery: the Stuxnet worm did not only spread via infected USB memory sticks plugged into PCs. That was the initial theory, and it explained how the malware could sneak into a place with no direct Internet connection. However, data gathered while analyzing the very first attack showed that the first worm’s sample (Stuxnet.a) was compiled just hours before it appeared on a PC in the first attacked organization. This tight timetable makes it hard to imagine that an attacker compiled the sample, put it on a USB memory stick and delivered it to the target organization in just a few hours. It is reasonable to assume that in this particular case the people behind Stuxnet used other techniques instead of a USB infection.  

The latest technical information about some previously unknown aspects of the Stuxnet attack can be read on Securelist and journalist Kim Zetter’s new book, “Countdown to Zero Day.” The book includes previously undisclosed information about Stuxnet; some of this information is based on the interviews with members of the Kaspersky Lab Global Research and Analysis Team.
ICS   industrial control systems 
September 28, 2010

Is stuxnet the new Ultra?

By  Mladen Andrijasevic

Few people realize the importance of Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski. These three Polish mathematicians and cryptologists solved the Enigma machine in 1932, the main cipher used by the Germans, and in 1939 transferred their knowledge to the British who under the leadership of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park continued to penetrate most of the German communication during WWII.

The history of WWII would have been quite different if it had not been for Ultra as the intelligence obtained through  breaking Enigma was called.  The anti submarine warfare in the Battle of the Atlantic was won almost entirely thanks to Ultra.  Many of the major battles of the Second World War, The Battle of Britain, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Kursk, D-Day were won at least partly because Ultra had broken the German code.

But all this was unknown until 30 years after the end of the Second Word War.   

So what is one to make of the articles like this one in Computerworld Is Stuxnet the 'best' malware ever?

The Stuxnet worm is a "groundbreaking" piece of malware so devious in its use of unpatched vulnerabilities, so sophisticated in its multipronged approach, that the security researchers who tore it apart believe it may be the work of state-backed professionals.
"It's amazing, really, the resources that went into this worm," said Liam O Murchu, manager of operations with Symantec's security response team.
"I'd call it groundbreaking," said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior antivirus researcher at Kaspersky Lab. In comparison, other notable attacks, like the one dubbed Aurora that hacked Google's network and those of dozens of other major companies, were child's play.
The malware, which weighed in a nearly half a megabyte -- an astounding size, said Schouwenberg -- was written in multiple languages, including C, C++ and other object-oriented languages, O Murchu added.

Or this one in The Economist A cyber-missile aimed at Iran?

But the possibility that it might have been aimed at one set of industrial-control systems in particular—those inside Iranian nuclear facilities—has prompted one security expert to describe Stuxnet as a "cyber-missile", designed to seek out and destroy a particular target. Its unusual sophistication, meanwhile, has prompted speculation that it is the work of a well-financed team working for a nation state, rather than a group of rogue hackers trying to steal industrial secrets or cause trouble. This, in turn, has led to suggestions that Israel, known for its high-tech prowess and (ahem) deep suspicion of Iran's nuclear programme, might be behind it. But it is difficult to say how much truth there is in this juicy theory.

Are we witnessing the first visible stages of the war against the Iranian nuclear sites?  Although the worm can apparently be patched I can imagine the level of concern that is spreading among the Iranians is significant.  Will it take 30 years to find out what has happened? 

Is Israel involved?  Should we be surprised if it were?  Not really. One just needs to read the book Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer to get the magnitude of Israel’s achievement in computer technology in the last 30 years.   The 8088 chip used in the original IBM PC was designed in Haifa, the 386 in Jerusalem. Centrino and Core 2 Duo, and most of the  Intel’s forty new processors over a one-hundred-day period were based on Intel’s Israeli team’s design.  

Is stuxnet just the tip of the iceberg?  Will computer know-how play the same role Ultra played in the Second World War?  Let’s hope so. Is the ingenuity, innovation and chutzpah that made the Israeli computer revolution possible now being utilized to counter the Iranian threat?  Apparently.
There is a difference. The scientific and technological achievement of both sides during Word War II was comparable.  Britain had the radar and Alan Turing, the Americans the Manhattan project. The Germans had Karl Zuse, who invented the first electro-mechanical computer and Wernher von Braun.  Today the difference is between a country (or countries) that virtually invented the technology and one that is still leaning how to use it. Let’s hope that this difference will prove crucial.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Iran's Letter to Obama: Thanks for the Nukes!

Dear President Obama,
You’ve been a great friend for the last six years and, to express our appreciation, we’d like to acknowledge some of your many helpful actions:
1) In 2009, our presidential election results were so dubious that millions of brave, pro-democracy protesters risked their lives to demonstrate throughout our country. When our Basij paramilitary force brutalized them, you kept your response irrelevantly mild for the sake of “engaging” us. That surely helped Iranians understand the risks of protesting our “free” election of 2012 (involving our eight handpicked candidates). It was indeed a very orderly rubberstamp.
2) After eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we KNEW you’d fall for the smiles of his successor, President Hassan Rouhani! Human rights abuses have actually worsened under his rule and his polished charm only makes him better at duping the world into acquiescing to our nukes, so we LOVE how you’ve overlooked these facts.

3) You’ve been unilaterally weakening the sanctions against us by simply not enforcing them (which reassures us that you’re desperate to avoid any real confrontation).

4) You’ve threatened to thwart any Congressional attempt to limit your nuclear generosity by simply lifting sanctions without Congressional approval. Good stuff!

5) You isolated Israel on the issue of how close we are to a nuclear capability – we love how your estimates are so much laxer than theirs are!

6) The diplomatic snubs and betrayals of Israel by your administration have been EPIC. We couldn’t have asked for more – from your humiliation of Prime Minister Netanyahu in 2010, to Secretary of State John Kerry’s betrayal of Israel during Operation Protective Edge, to calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit” a few weeks ago, without even apologizing later. We found it hilariously ironic that your administration’s accusation of Israeli cowardice was made anonymously! And, FYI, Netanyahu is actually the only leader in the world with the guts to defy us, respond to Syrian border violations, enforce his own declared lines, etc., so we thought that this was particularly priceless.

7) Speaking of enforcing red lines, we LOVE how you backed off yours, after our Syrian buddy, Basher Assad, used chemical weapons on his own people. That was a very helpful signal to everyone that we need not take your threats too seriously (contrary to those scary words you issued in 2012 about how stopping our nukes militarily was still an option, unlike containment, and how you don’t bluff). But we understood back then that you were trying to get re-elected, so we didn’t take it personally.

8) It was adorably naive of you (in 2011) to request so politely that we give back your drone that went down onIranian soil. In fact, your request was so quaint that we couldn’t resist recently showcasing our knock-off based on that drone.

9) Fortunately, you don’t take our Supreme Leader Khamenei seriously when he tweets out his plan for destroying Israel (why let our true motives get in the way of a fantastic nuclear deal, right)?

10) We LOVE how you obsess over Israel building apartments in Jerusalem because it’s the perfect distraction from our deal. 

11) You’ve been pressuring Israel to retreat from more disputed territory, effectively rewarding Palestinians for launching the third missile war against Israel from Gaza in five years last summer and, more recently, the third Intifidah inside Israel in 17 years. You’re almost as awesome as the European appeasers who think Palestinian bellicosity merits statehood!

12) It’s so cute of you to write us these letters asking for help against ISIS and showing us how desperately you want a nuclear deal. All we had to do was hint at an ISIS-for-nukes exchange and you got so excited!

13) You’re smart to go behind everyone’s backs when dealing with us. That’s a bummer that your top aide, Ben Rhodes, was caught saying how a nuclear accord with us is as important to you as “healthcare.” But we’ve got the perfect slogan to sell our deal to Americans: “If you like your nukes, you can keep them.”

14) What’s really awesome about the deal that we’re “negotiating” is that it allows us to continue nuclear enrichment but makes it even harder for Israel to take any military action against our nuclear program. And our agreement will give the press even more ammunition against such an attack. We already know about the world media’s anti-Israel bias – they can’t even get a simple story about vehicular terrorism against Israelis correct. Even we were surprised at how The Guardian writes accurate headlines when Canada suffers an Islamist car attack but not when Israel does). So if you accept our nukes and Israel then attacks them, the media will be even harsher on Israel (even though the world will be silently relieved, if Israeli courage succeeds at neutralizing what scared everyone else).

But we kind of feel sorry for you, because nobody takes you seriously and you're a lame duck now. Putin is unabashedly conquering neighboring countries while going all Cold War on you with 40 provocative security incidents involving Western nations and Russian flights into the Gulf of Mexico (despite your promise of greater flexibility after your 2012 reelection). The North Koreans are closer than ever to building nuclear missiles. China is dangerously testing disputed borders with India, growing increasingly assertive in the contested Spratly archipelago, and stealing your sensitive defense and corporate data. Oh, and ISIS has grown into a veritable jihadi lovefest thanks to your excellent strategy against them

Indeed, your foreign policy seems like a massive FAIL, but we’re super ready to help! Your trusted Russian friends have suggested continuing our nuclear talks past the November 24th deadline, and we’re totally down with more enrichment time (that’s another reason we've stonewalled the IAEA’s investigations into our nukes), so count us in on this extension like the one from last July (and any future ones). Hey, it’s good for you too: an extension (or agreement) looks so much better than calling out our manipulations and issuing more empty threats to stop us, right?

And after everyone sees the killer deal that you’re giving us, the world’s bad actors will line up to talk to you, with demands of their own that you can try to satisfy in the hope that they’ll stop opposing your national interests so much.
Overall, we appreciate you even more than we did President Carter, because getting nukes is WAY COOLER than holding 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for 444 days.
With our deepest gratitude,
Your Friends in the Iranian Regime
p.s. We’re glad you didn’t take any personal offense when one of our officials used the N-word to describe you back in 2010. He actually has nothing but respect for you, as do we. 

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

Ten days left to Iran nuclear deal deadline

Will there be another extension before Nov 24? Will there be a bad deal or no deal at all? A good comprehensive deal is not even a possibility.  Here is Matthew Kroenig’s article from January of this year in which he makes this point which is often lost in all other analyses:

“At present, it is estimated that Iran could dash to a nuclear weapons capability in two or three months. A deal that allows limited enrichment would push that timeline back to about six months, at best. “

Still Time to Attack Iran

The Illusion of a Comprehensive Nuclear Deal

Much has changed in the two years since I wrote “Time to Attack Iran,” but one basic fact hasn’t: diplomacy remains unlikely to neutralize the threat from Iran’s nuclear program. A truly comprehensive diplomatic settlement between Iran and the West is still the best possible outcome, but there is little reason to believe that one can be achieved. And that means the United States may still have to choose between bombing Iran and allowing it to acquire a nuclear bomb. That would be an awful dilemma. But a limited bombing campaign on Iran’s nuclear facilities would certainly be preferable to any attempt to contain a nuclear-armed Iran.

The successful negotiation of an interim deal between Iran and the United States and its negotiating partners has not substantially improved the chances that this problem will be resolved diplomatically. On the most important issue, the two sides are as far apart as ever, at least judging from the way that the Iranian government still makes claims of a “right to enrich” uranium, despite the multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions that have demanded the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Any deal that permits Iran to continue enriching uranium cannot be considered comprehensive in any sense. At present, it is estimated that Iran could dash to a nuclear weapons capability in two or three months. A deal that allows limited enrichment would push that timeline back to about six months, at best. (Some analysts, including Joseph Cirincione and Colin Kahl, have misleadingly claimed that the world still has years to solve the problem because it would take Iran a long time to develop an arsenal of deliverable warheads. But that is beside the point: Whenever the Iranian government develops bomb-grade fissile material, it can then move that material to an undisclosed location, thus taking the West’s military option off the table.) In other words, the comprehensive deal under discussion would put the two sides back where they were in January 2012, when “Time to Attack Iran” was first published.

It is tempting to believe that the new atmosphere of détente between the Iranian and U.S. governments makes launching a military operation against Iran politically infeasible. In fact, a number of scenarios could trigger an attack. First, the diplomatic track might break down altogether. Congress might pass sanctions that scuttle the deal; Iranian hard-liners might do their part to undermine it; Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, might be unwilling to make necessary concessions; or the diplomats might simply fail to come to mutually acceptable terms. If any of these things happen and Iran resumes its nuclear activities, Washington would then have months to either use force or prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran.

Second, diplomats might fail to produce a comprehensive deal and instead settle for making the interim deal permanent. The text of the interim deal states that it is “renewable by mutual consent,” but renewing the current deal would leave Iran’s program perpetually two or three months away from a breakout capability -- a very thin margin of error for U.S. policymakers. Any suggestion that Iran was violating the terms of the deal would have to lead to immediate consideration of a military option. 

Third, if Tehran does agree to a deal that permits enrichment, it might violate the deal’s terms by quietly continuing to pursue a nuclear weapons breakout capability. Iran’s leaders would like to have sanctions relief and nuclear weapons too. At present, the U.S. government and the international community are laser-focused on Iran, but once the United States formally declares an end to the Iranian nuclear crisis, its gaze will wander. Relations will be normalized, trade will resume, and global leaders will forget about Iran and start worrying about other issues. Iran may calculate that it would be difficult for the United States to rally support for new international sanctions if Iran cheats on its agreements. In the absence of renewed international pressure, the United States would be forced to consider a military option to stop Iran from building the bomb.

Fourth, even if Iran fully abides by the terms of a deal, it would only be for a limited time. The text of the interim agreement promises that the comprehensive agreement would hold for a “specified long-term duration.” Early reports suggest that Iranian officials envision a three-to-five-year timeframe for a comprehensive accord, whereas the P5 plus 1 will press for 10 to 20 years. At the end of that specified time period, however long that might be, all bets would be off and Iran could resume its march to a nuclear weapons capability without violating the agreement.

Any discussion of a U.S. attack on Iran is sure to elicit opposition in the United States. But the White House would be wrong to heed the arguments of those who would voice moral objections to such an attack. If the rules that govern the international system, including the nuclear nonproliferation regime, are to have any meaning, they must be enforced. Some people are comfortable with military intervention for humanitarian reasons but place nuclear proliferation in a different category. Yet the spread of nuclear weapons poses a grave threat to international peace and security. If the United States believes that it is imperative to prevent nuclear war and stop additional countries from acquiring the world’s deadliest weapons, then it must be willing, in principle, to use force to achieve that objective. 

When it comes to using force to prevent nuclear proliferation, the questions are practical ones: Does the use of force have a reasonable chance of success, and is it superior to available alternatives? In some instances, such as North Korea’s nuclear program today, those questions must be answered in the negative. But Iran is different. A U.S. strike, provided it is launched in time, could destroy Iran’s key nuclear facilities, set Iran’s nuclear program back a number of years, at a minimum, and, by changing a number of factors, including the calculations of Iran’s government, create a significant possibility that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons. To be sure, there are serious risks, but they pale in comparison to the dangers of living with a nuclear-armed Iran for decades to come, the further spread of nuclear weapons in the region and around the world, and an increased risk of nuclear war against Israel and the United States.

The United States must, of course, always update its assessments in light of new evidence, but nothing that has transpired in the past two years changes the fact that a military intervention may be necessary to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis. Iran began enrichment at Fordow, a facility buried in the side of a mountain near the holy city of Qom, but the facility is no match for the United States’ new and improved bunker-busting bombs. The Arab Spring toppled other governments in the region, but the Iranian regime remains strong, passing the presidency without violence or protest to a regime insider in August of this year. Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, is certainly less of a firebrand than Ahmadinejad, but his election would not in any way make a nuclear-armed Iran less dangerous.

The most important change in the past two years, however, is that President Barack Obama has come out forcefully on my side of this debate and against the arguments of my critics. As he has stated many times since March 2012, a nuclear-armed Iran “not a challenge that can be contained” and the United States must be prepared to do “everything required to prevent it.” Many outside the Beltway express skepticism when Obama makes such threats, but his closest advisers insist that he is fully committed to preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and is prepared to use force if necessary to keep Tehran from getting the bomb. Fortunately, the situation is not yet at that point. For now, everyone should hope for a satisfactory diplomatic resolution to the crisis. But, if that effort fails, no one, especially not Iran’s leaders, should delude themselves about what should come next.